BARROW (AP) -- Following a busy winter season, Barrow tour operators say they anticipate one of the best summer seasons as more and more people discover the nation's northernmost town.
The summer tourism season started off slow but is gaining momentum.
The number of people visiting Barrow this summer is expected to exceed the estimated 5,000 who made the trip last year.
About half of the visitors are from the United States, while the other half are international tourists, with many coming from Australia and Germany, according to Susan Knapman, the manager of Tundra Tours and the Top of the World Hotel.
Visitors tour coastal and tundra areas, where they can see many species of birds and wildlife. Knapman said visits usually include a stop at the Inupiat Heritage Center.
The winter tourism season also was busy, with about 1,000 visitors, Knapman said.
''Of course our winter tourists have more time and a different type of approach when they come to Barrow,'' she said. ''They really want to spend time talking with the people, trying to understand how people can live this far north of the Arctic Circle, and just actually enjoying the community.''
For winter travelers, the two main attractions are the northern lights and the chance to see polar bears in the wild.
As far as summer, a big lure is the fact that the sun will not set until August 2.
''The tourists are still amazed that it just never gets dark here,'' Knapman said.
Visitors also mention how open Barrow residents are.
''They take the time to tell me this is the friendliest place,'' Knapman said. ''That means a lot to someone who has traveled so far from home.''
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